Briza maxima (Greater Quaking Grass)

Scientific Name

Briza maxima L.

Common Names

Greater Quaking Grass, Great Quaking Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Large Quaking Grass, Blowfly Grass, Rattlesnake Grass, Shelly Grass, Rattle Grass, Shell Grass


Briza capensis, Briza dalmatica, Briza gracilescens, Briza grandis, Briza major, Briza microclada, Briza monspessulana, Briza montana, Briza portenschlagii, Briza pulchella, Briza rubens, Briza rubra, Macrobriza maxima, Poa maxima

Scientific Classification

Family: Poaceae
Subfamily:  Pooideae
Genus: Briza


Color: Pale green
Bloom Time: May to August, 12 weeks from spring sowing


Briza maxima is a beautiful annual grass, up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall, with thin, erect stems, hung with pale green flowers that look like raindrops as they catch the light. Its stems are usually not branched and are hairless. Leaves are tufted together at the base of the plant and alternately arranged along the stems.

Briza maxima - Greater Quaking Grass
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USDA hardiness zone 5b to 10b: from −15 °F (−26.1 °C) to 40 °F (+4.4 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Quaking Grass has no special germination requirements and so can be sown at any time of the year to raise plants. As with most grass seed, this means that seed can also be sown successfully in open ground in both autumn and spring.

It is slow-growing grass and so will take time to establish from seed.  It is best sown in small quantities to add interest as a minor component of a mixture, with the main ground cover provided by other companion grass species.

As Quaking Grass is not a very competitive grass, it does require good grassland management (mowing and grazing) to maintain its presence in a mixed sward, particularly on better soils. Neglect or even regular late hay cutting will allow taller grasses the opportunity to outgrow and to shade it out. Also, while quaking grass does produce side shoots, it does not spread laterally very much, so is dependent self-seeding into gaps created by good management to maintain itself or increase in a mixed sward. See more at How to Grow and Care for Quaking Grass (Briza).


Native to northern Africa, the Azores, western Asia, and southern Europe.


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